A response from a former communications student - Give Me Back My Five Bucks

A response from a former communications student

Yesterday I read a blog post that really made me angry. It was called “A Question for all you Communications Majors” on the blog Darwin’s Money. Basically, the blog author thought communications degrees were useless, silly, and a waste of time and money. He believes that anyone taking communications must see that there are no well-paying job opportunities for someone with a “fluff” degree. The author didn’t understand why anyone would consider majoring in something worthless like communications, and likened it to basket weaving.

As someone who has an education in communications, of course I disagree with his stance.

The blog author stated that students majoring in communications most likely started their education with high hopes, only to leave school disillusioned and broke – with massive amounts of student loan debt, a useless “joke” degree, and a low paying job to look forward to. Saying that a communications degree is useless, or that you are unemployable because of it, is a really narrow minded statement. Why is it useless? How are you unemployable? Do people not need to communicate in a professional environment? Are we not communicating right now through our blogs? Are there not PR, media, marketing, advertising,  journalism, broadcasting and writing jobs available out there? Because I’m pretty sure there are. There are so many reasons why I think the author’s statements are dumb, and I think they’re pretty obvious.

Five years after graduating, I’m utilizing my education in communications to its fullest potential by creating multiple streams of income, purchasing my own home, and working towards my goal of financial independence. I travel multiple times a year, contribute regularly to my retirement portfolio, and am living a pretty comfortable life. All this with a “useless” education. Imagine that!

It’s so easy for people to knock down degrees like psychology or communications because they don’t think it’s as challenging as the degree they pursued, or because they don’t understand how to make that kind of education work for them. But you can be successful in anything you do – with any degree you choose – even if it’s no degree at all! For example, I think I’ve done fairly well for myself with just a diploma. Because when it comes down to it, it’s all about work ethic, the desire to achieve and learn, and understanding where your strengths lie.

About Krystal Yee

I'm a writer, personal finance blogger, and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I'm a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner's Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I'm not working, you can usually find me running, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.

63 comments

  1. Word. I work in publishing, in an office full of former communications and English majors. In my field, having a comm degree is an asset. I've been promoted three times in less than four years, hardly what I would consider having a "dead-end job." And, even though I'm a shy/socially awkward person, I know I can succeed in job interviews because of the skills I learned while getting my communications degree. I will admit that I *did* graduate college disillusioned and broke (mostly because I had no idea how much money I was going to owe until about 3 days before graduation, and no idea how I'd ever pay it back), however I was able to get a decent, good-paying job within a few weeks of graduating, parlayed that into an entry-level position in publishing, and have since succeeded in paying down half of my gargantuan student loan debt in little more than four years. Anyone can succeed with a humanities degree, it just takes a little more creativity than getting a degree in the hard sciences, for example, where your career path is pretty clearly laid out for you when you choose your major.

  2. What an ignorant post on Darwin's Money's part. I took communication studies, but the version I took was highly theoretical. I took a tonne of philosophy, sociology, english, and film studies courses. I'm only tangentially employed in what I studied, but I'm well employed. (Also, he's not knocking us, but it's a "joke major"?)

    I don't understand the attitude that all education must be vocational training. Is there no room for the humanities anymore? The world would be a much poorer place if everyone thought like the author at Darwin's Money.

  3. Interesting. I'll take the view from the other end: science based degree. I took chemical engineering which I have really used perhaps all of a few times in my career. I am now currently doing policy and cost modeling work, which mostly doesn't involve anything from my degree. So I would point out any degree can be 'useless' depending on what you end up doing with it or not. The point of a degree in my mind is more about showing your ability to learn rather than your major. Yes some degrees do open a specific career path, but even then you don't have to follow it.
    My recent post Playing the Odds

  4. There's nothing wrong with asking other people why they do the things they do (ie educational choices) – but there is no need to be a arrogant jerk about it.

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  5. That makes very little sense to me – but maybe because the company I work for has a communications department of roughly 20 people. My comm professor has worked in various environments, including corporate, small business, teaching and he's owned his own communications business!
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  6. Doesn't everyone come out of school… land a lower paying job than they anticipated and have wicked amounts of student debt? I thought this was universal to every degree.
    My recent post HEY give me my life back!

  7. To me, college had very little to do with learning and a lot to do with process and growth. In that sense, I agree with Canadian Dream–a major might not be as relevant as we make it out to be, and one can be equally rewarding (or useless) as the next, with the exception of the few required as prerequisites for doors to open.
    My recent post Americans and Money- 3 Reasons Why We’re in Trouble

  8. My sister has a degree in communications and cultural studies, and she has an awesome PR/Corporate communications gig with a really small firm. She recently got a huge raise and is doing really well for herself, and she's only one year out of school.

    Besides, a lot of the time it's about the skills you learn in school, and not necessarily the content. I earned a business degree (that's got to be relevant right! everything is related to business) and I don't use most of the courses in my job now.

  9. I am so sorry Krystal! I am sorry that you felt the need to expend your energy to defend your major to someone who obviously knows little about it.

    Anyway, highfive to all the successful comm majors!

  10. That article sounds a bit like the faculty bashing that used to go on when we went to University. In the real world, I think your degree choice has little to do with your future employability. How many people are actually working in the field that they studied? You can have a degree in History or Philosophy and become a successful business leader or entrepreneur.

    When I hire someone, I look less at their degree and more about their experience. I've interviewed plenty of management degree holders who don't even know how to interact with people, yet still graduated with high marks. Employers want to hire great people and for the most part could care less what you majored in.
    My recent post Maybe I Should Just Stop Watching TV!

  11. I am also a Communication Studies graduate and manage the corporate philanthropy programs for a large (Canadian owned) global technology company. There is plenty of Communication Studies graduates in my organization, in a range of roles from internal communications, PR, project management and HR. The skills learned in a comms degree are transferrable to a number of career options. The opinion in the blog you mentioned in short sighted, uninformed and ignorant.

    There are no invaluable degree programs out there – every program means something different to each person.

  12. I am not in communications, but communications is critical for what I do! My undergraduate communications classes really influenced my presentation and writing styles. Gosh…I'm all for questions, but let's not be critical! Way to stand up for what you do!
    My recent post I ran 131 miles!

  13. Donno why he's on a piss folks off rampage. Perhaps just to get a rise out of y'all?

    Can you describe the 3 or 4 core courses in Communications? I think it is an important major b/c communication is what helps create peace.

    Thx, Sam

    btw, is it possible to be able to log on using Twitter or something. Ihave to type all info in every time i comment. thx
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  14. Wow, my sister has a communications degree, but instead of looking for a job, she used her degree to get into a hotel management program in Switzerland. She will be back soon and hopefully find an internship here in Vancouver.

    I have an Asian Studies Degree from UBC and a lot of people snickers when they find that out, but a degree is a degree. It helps in job interviews. I believe that a degree from university regardless of what degree it is, it teaches you critical thinking. I had an interviewer asked if I had a degree and when I said yes, she confessed that she does find that a person with a degree think differently than a person without one.

    My recent post Do you get embarrassed when

  15. I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. I'm doing quite well for myself.
    My recent post Albany Beer Fest Update

  16. I wholeheartedly agree with you. It angers me when people question my choice to get a degree in history with a minor in art history. They automatically assume that the only thing I can do with it is be a teacher and when they find out that I have no intention of teaching, they scoff at my degree choice. It's only after I start naming all of the things I can do with a history degree besides teach that I get them to shut up.

  17. I was a communications major and then I switched to English. I have been taking classes one or two at a time for 28 years and still don't have my degree, but everytime I have been asked in a job interview about my education, I am happy to point out that the ability to communicate in English is a skill their company definitely needs. I also have always had a job, while a friend of mine who is an engineer got laid off over a year ago and still can't find a job.
    My recent post Elizabeth Berg

  18. Although I agree with you that communications is not a useless skill or a useless degree (if you are smart and determined enough to make it work for you), I also see his point (note: I haven't read his article; I am just responding to what you are writing here that you are upset about). "Communications" should be part of EVERY degree. Engineers, programmers, historians, psychologists and designers all need to know how to communicate effectively to be good at their jobs and in their careers, but few (especially on the technical side) receive such training. If your specialty is "communications," I can see how that can be like specializing in a medium without a trade. But it's like absolutely ANY degree in the world, where you have mold it into something that works for what you're trying to do with it, and his complaints about the degree are those of a person without imagination.

    FTR, I was a literature and history major (I think the liberal arts *can be* a bit different from communications, but it's the same idea for people who only value science educations). I did just fine professionally before I decided to go to law school (actually, you could argue I did better before law school ;).
    My recent post This is not a comeback

  19. um, who cares what someone else thinks.

    • You've never formed an opinion of your own, based on hearing or reading what someone else had to say?

      I definitely care what other people think about certain topics. That's what social media and blogging is all about.

  20. when it comes to your own education, i'm not sure why you feel the need to justify it. everyone does things for different reasons.

  21. I have a communications degree working in a corporate communications environment, and loving every minute! this is a ridiculous post. if communications degrees should be obsolete, what's next? there are barely any jobs out there for teachers, so is teachers college a sham too? everyone can pursue a career in their field as long as they work hard, and dont expect jobs to come to them

  22. I graduated with a double major in Math and Physics and I can remember all the comments about Arts people, and even the "lesser" science courses like psychology and biology. Because science courses in general are viewed as the harder courses, then science students tend to, wrongly, look down on all other students. Most of the people that I graduated with (that I have info on) ended up in the teaching field, so science may be the one with fewer job prospects.
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  23. My degree is in Communications and it is NOT useless. I graduated during the recession and have never had any trouble finding a job (on my own, sans nepotism & networking, even!). Anyone who says Communications is a "fluff" degree is clearly making an ignorant statement. We need communicators in EVERY industry.
    My recent post Meeting your spirit guides

  24. Reading that blog post over on that other blog totally made my jaw drop. It sounds not only ignorant, but self- motivated to seem like he was better or other people are better than some because of what they choose to major in while attending college. NOT TRUE! Some people, even engineers or nurses, do not always find a job or suck so much they never make what they could if they were self motivated. That could, very well in fact, be anybody who want to school. Not everyone harnesses their potential. But to say degrees like psychology and sociology are useless really struck a cord with me. I am majoring in criminal justice and minoring in psychology and my degrees are not stupid nor are they fluffy. I busted my ass to go to school and so did everyone else with a " useless degree".
    My recent post Work Woes

  25. I would not have my job without my communications degree. I believe in the US, you can still get into journalism the good old fashioned way. Not here. You need to be qualified.

    Communications, depending on what you specialise in, sets you up for a career in anything from digital media, graphic design, PR, advertising, TV or more. The great thing about it, at my university (recognised as the best Comms degree in the country) is that it is inherently practical. You're actually using the programmes and software and learning the skills you will need in the workplace. And you are required to do internships and work experience.
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  26. AHHHHH. I couldn't agree with this post more! I studied Communications and it has been such a valuable asset. I worked in publishing when I finished, and I don't want to say what my current role is now because it's a bit of a privacy giveaway, but it's a job where I have to use skills and knowledge gained from my degree… every single day. I am SO happy I did my degree and I never held lofty ambitions of being a glamorous reporter or a media mogul. I studied Communications because i was genuinely interested in the subject matter, which I believe is really the only reason to study. I haven't read the offending post but I find that people who criticise other's life choices are generally unhappy or unsatisfied with their own choices. Take it with a grain of salt. x

  27. Wow, I can't imagine EVER writing a post like that. First of all, if you are going to declare any major pointless, I feel like there are MORE pointless ones out there. Second of all, communications like EVERYTHING is what you make of it. I majored in education in college and I'm now a teacher but my second major was Communications. For me, that did not GET me a job… why? because I picked my Comm classes by what fit after my student teaching/ed classes and I didn't do any internships or volunteering etc using that degree. But that wasn't my focus. It was still helpful in my teaching career to take classes such as public speaking and others that I had to take for my Communications major. Every degree is what YOU make of it. You have to focus on it, select your classes wisely and do internships. Every major is pointless if you don't put any effort in.

  28. …almost all of my friends have careers in communications. I would say probably 80%. And then I have friends in things like finance, who work for communication companies. Granted I am also communications-based so it'd make sense that I'd have such friends. But none of them are unemployed. And they get paid well enough. And they adore their jobs.
    My recent post No- no- you teach me

  29. There are lots of people in this world that would kill for a "useless" degree in anything to just say that they finished college! I don't think that you need to justify yourself to anyone. I graduated college with a masters degree at 22. I always felt a little out of place for choosing a business major and felt like a lot of my peers were introverted. They could have used a communications class or two! And now in the workplace, some of my peers have trouble talking to clients, communicating with coworkers, etc. Those things should have been taught to them while in college and they missed the memo because they were studying at the library…
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  30. Here here! I work with engineers and I often cringe at their attempts at communication (whether spoken or written). Don't get me wrong, engineers are generally very smart people, but having a person trained in communication translate for an engineer can make a huge difference in how a project is received. Very rarely is anyone good at everything, and that's why it's so important to have people with different skill sets, training and education in any workplace.
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  31. Well, like others have said, the field listed on your degree means much less than what you do with it. (though I completely understand your reaction, I'd react the same way)

    I do know people with communications degrees who graduated and couldn't find work. I also know people with communications degrees who graduated with multiple incredible job offers, and they make plenty of money and love their jobs. Likewise, I know people with the same degree(s) as I have, in science, who are now unemployed…and people like myself still in grad school/med school, and people with industry type jobs or teaching jobs.
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  32. I agree with some of the posters here. Really, a degree is a degree- a lot of people end up in careers that are completely unrelated to their degrees, and that' s okay. I think the purpose of education is to broaden your mind, to learn how to learn… to keep an open mind. There are many aspects of our careers that can't be learned in a classroom, such as interpersonal skills, self-confidence, teamwork etc. I think that statements that "look down upon" a certain major are not constructive.
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  33. findingserenity2010

    I can kind of see where he's coming from, but I also think he's off-base. As a former English major, I went through a TON of similar bashing. After all, even my professors questioned my motives "with this economy and all" to go where I went. And sure, my first job teaching didn't work out so well, but I'm now working in a field where my skills at reading, analyzing, and interpreting rhetoric in my everyday job coming in very handy. Also, I am applying for instructional opportunities at our company, so my training in teaching will go to a good use as well.

    It's not about what kind of education you get – it's what you do with it when you get out of school. It's about working to gain skills, not just knowledge. If you take all your knowledge and use it to sit back and criticize others' choices, well, you obviously have some work to do … just sayin'.

  34. My first thought was "troll", second was "engineering troll", third was "knuckle-dragging troll".

    Communications is a skill, and the ability to communicate over a wide range of topics and formats is a necessity in the modern world. I'll be willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that he doesn't write the final copy of his technical documentation or business cases, but has the departmental "technical writer" do it for him.

    I'm also willing to go doble-or-nothing that the technical writer has a communications degree.

    His posting shows tremendous ignorance or just simply trolling to rasie a stink and get more traffic to his site. I for one am not going to bump his statistics.
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    • I knew he was an engineer even before I read his "about" section on the website. It's always the engineers who like tacking hacks at "lesser" degrees.

  35. Man. Darwin's post really ticked me off! Props to you for responding with far more grace than he exhibited. As a fellow communications degree holder, I couldn't resist doing so myself.
    My recent post Yo-Yo Waaaaaaah!

  36. pelagicgeek@yahoo.ca

    I’ve read a number of these “pro” comms degree comments, and one thing strikes me as exceedingly obvious. That is, a large number of you with a “communications degree” are portraying the attitude that it’s only these specifically trained individuals that are capable of “communicating” at a proficient level. The unstated, underlying assumption is that science based degree types are less capable of clearly expressing themselves. Where on god’s green earth did that fallacious attitude spring from? (Sorry, anecdotal stories don’t count…how about some “statistics”).

  37. I read Darwin's post because of what you wrote here – I wanted to check it out. It was my first time to visit his blog. I left a comment where I discussed the futility of calling a degree useless and silly. What we need to do is help students figure out what their goals and objectives are and then match that with the best degree for them (which could be in any area). He proceeded to respond back to me in an incredibly rude, arrogant manner. I can assure you I will NEVER visit his blog again. Nor would I recommend it to others!!!! I like this blog because you seem open to different points of view, which is more than I can say for Darwin!

  38. I commented on his blog and I read your blog post last night on my mobile phone. Kudos to you for standing up! If my comment gets approved, maybe you can read it. This all gave me hope to keep pursuing COMM as a degree. It really made me a better person.
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  39. Communications degrees are worthless. Most jobs are temp-based with no benefits. I am currently working retail. A fellow Communications grad is working at GNC (more retail), another sells cell phones (more retail), and yet another gave up on the biz completely and is now a practicing nurse. Total garbage. Of all my college friends, only three are working in their desired fields of TV/Radio. The pay is bad and they all wish they had become accountants. My advice to aspiring Comm majors? Go become a Doctor, Lawyer, or anything that pays the bills!

  40. To those still in Communications, I say don’t give up. It has many uses. In the long run it will put you ahead of your competition. Effective communications is one of the hardest things in the world to master. If you can master it you can make it to the top.

  41. How did you get that first communications job? Because I suspect that more than half of the people who posted here knew someone or had well connected family. My communications job has turned out to be utterly worthless and an extreme waste of money. It certaintly hasn’t proven useful in my illustrious post college jobs as a K-Mart employee, mail room clerk, bakery assisant, or substitute teacher. After being let go in a mass lay off from the mail room clerk job, I’ve been looking for over a year now. Soon my uemployment will run out. I’ll have to work in retail again soon. I hope I can make enough to pay my college loan every month.

    Do not get a communications degree. Go into a hard science field.

    • I got my first communication job by interviewing for it. It’s about how you sell yourself on your resume, and in the interview. If you aren’t working in your field, make sure you’re doing volunteer work or trying to find work on the side to boost your portfolio and work experience. There are plenty of non-profits looking for help – that’s how I filled up my resume while I was in school.

      A communication degree isn’t right for everyone, but neither is a degree in science. I personally think it’s important to separate yourself from everyone else who has the same degree. You probably won’t get anywhere as a communication generalist, so you need to specialize in something. For me, I specialized in marketing and graphic design.

  42. I agree with you 110%!!!

  43. IM A STUDENT STUDIENG BA IN COMMONICATIONS I LOVE MY COURSE BT AFTER I SAW UR POST’S I FELT A BIT DISAPPOINTED COZ NW I DNT KNW WETHER IM GONNA GET A JOB AFTER I’VE FINISHED MY DEGREE, I SERIOUSLY NEED ADVICE SHOULD I CHANGE MY COURSE OR NT. PLZ HELP ME ANY ONE WHO WENT THROUGH DE SAME SUTUATION IM IN PLZ HELP ME

  44. Hi! I’m going to major in communications at a comm college then transfer to UCSD, I know I can utilize it effectively but I’ve always wanted to be an Occupational Therapist, do you think this would be a good pre-OT major?

  45. I disagree with your disagreement. I am a communications graduate and realize just how pathetic this degree is. It’s been eight months since I’ve graduated and I have only had one interview for a full-time job, two interviews for an internship and only had one for part-time job. I’ve sent about 115 applications and have found jack shit. Maybe it’s because I live in Michigan, the cesspool state where hopes, dreams and jobs die. But either way, communications is a bullshit joke degree because you already know how to communicate and you learn a lot more about PR, marketing, etc. when you’re working and interning than you do when you’re in a class.

  46. I think a degree in Communications is pretty useful if you learn how to apply it adeptly. First, make sure you go to a school where there’s a good balance between theoretical and practical teaching. Mainly because in any degree, you need to learn to apply the knowledge that you just learned.
    Now, this is the age of technology! I mean, if there’s anytime when having a degree in this field is useful it’s now. There are viable careers, whether they are more traditional (i.e. public relations, journalism, media, marketing, etc.) or non-traditional (like social media relations, blogger, etc.)
    Finally, I really can’t stand people who go to school and just study. This is the time to get started on the career of your dreams. Find some volunteer type of jobs. I personally went to my church and asked them to be responsible for developing their presence online. That included creating a twitter account, a church vlog, and other social media sites. After 2+ years doing that, can you believe I left college with actual experience on my CV? That meant that I was 2 years ahead of my peers. All because I decided to point my career in the right direction. So a communications degree really helped me, as I now have a really cool job, I telecommute (aka work from home) for a tech company developing their online portfolio and basically networking on their behalf at very cool conferences (like CES!!!) Being a techie and a communications major this is the best job ever!

  47. the reality is that even with a lot of experience (I have over 5 years working for a non-profit) + misc other jobs while in school) it is really difficult to land a job…regardless of major. When I got out of school in December there were zero people banging on my door to hire me. I went around and looked at where any of my friends were working, and asked them about their jobs, and if they ever took interns. I managed to get into a low end entry level internship, even though I have a graduate level degree, just to get experience. I kept filing out 50-100 applications a month for other jobs, with very little response from any of them. Eventually I managed to make it to a large job fair for a government organization. I went ahead and talked with everyone I possibly could and tried to make connections. I kept up at my crappy $10 hour internship. I got moved into a marketing assistant position for a grand total of $11, which I talked the CEO into $12. Then I kept going on interviews whenever I could. I finally got a call back from one of the government offices 10 months and 8 interviews later. I’ll be working on a different project where my starting pay is over 40k a year and has a lot of potential to move up and into the organization as a full time regular employee. But let me tell everyone. It is crazy out there. For every 1 job, 1000 apply, all with similar credentials. You have to do more to stand out, you can’t be a weirdo, and employers are looking for an exact fit. Whatever you do don’t give up.

  48. I have never really understood the people who say a communications degree is about communicating…. we do not talk about, well, talking. I have classes on advertising, marketing, understanding organizations, general media and political classes …. no where have I had a course on talking … can we get rid of this stereotype PLEASE. I hate when people think Im doing an English or linguistics degree (not because I don’t think English is a good degree, just because … well communications is not English of linguistics.)

    • That’s because there is Communication and Communications. They are different from one another.

      By the way what university are you attending?

  49. I’m a high school student whose considering going to univeristy for a degree in communications. Based on the research that I’ve done, It seems like something I’d be very interested in. I don’t know anyone who has taken this degree so if anyone could help me out by giving me some info on communications programs specifically in Ontario. (ex. York, Western, etc) It would be awesome to get the perspective of someone who has gone to university for this degree so I can get some real feedback or suggestions. Any comments would be great! Thanks so much.

  50. This was so helpful! Thank you for posting this, makes more happy that I’m working towards my communications degree!

  51. hello everybody, I need advise please…I would like to get a masters degree in communication from Canada. I need an advise on what area to specialize on. I also want to know if it would be a good move to go for a masters degree in communications since I have a bachelors degree in communication. Please someone advise me, just graduated from school…

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